(A reply to composer, David Mahler)
I don’t blame John Zorn. Also, New World Records, the curators of a recent series at the Stone were certainly well-meaning, and I understand that they did some actual promotion, which is what is necessary to get beyond the composer-only-fueled concert. I don’t even feel my usual righteous indignation. More in sorrow. Larry Polansky noted the undeniable fact that there is a raft of new music chamber groups out of various schools and conservatories, made up of crack performers, getting big coverage and big bucks relative to us. The nub of it is that we all BECAME new music performers to get our own music out, while also expressing our interest and passion for new music and our composer friends’ work.
Now that the virtuosi are taking up new music and are such good practitioners of it, our down-home DIY style is pushed into limbo. But just having done a Sound/Text program upstate twice recently with the DownTown Ensemble, I know that SO percussion or ICE or “ACE” or whatever—they would never do such a weird mixture of things, one of which was erotic verging on porno text by Richard Kostelanetz requiring no standard virtuoso instrumental techniques but rather speaking sensitivities and some clever well-motivated playing, would certainly never be chosen as a repertory number by any of these crack groups. Bill Hellermann made that general point. And Anne Tardos’s quirky, odd, non-virtuoso songs for voice and two instruments: they’d never do that either. Nor Jackson Mac Low, nor Daniel Goode’s text, “Misdirection of the Eye” about Wisconsin politics with free improv using “On, Wisconsin.” (You can listen to this performance below.) So composer-driven groups are still important counterweights to virtuoso performer driven groups. And we’re still poorly funded. It’s that awful circus virtuosity problem in music culture since forever.
On, Composers, On, Composers, fight fight fight fight fight!. I felt I was attacking my very “base” when I wrote that humble report on the Stone scene. Felt guilty, but it was as plain as the nose on our new music faces.